Tag: games

A Few Words on Wordle

Sometime in January I began to notice those yellow-and-green heatmap like grids of 5×6 squares showing up in my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I had no idea what they were, but they reminded me of celluar automata. They seemed to replicate like celluar automata, too, because before long, it seemed like many friends and family members were posting these grids, which I eventually learned was for a word game called Wordle.

I like word game, but I only felt tempted to play Wordle once for the purpose of writing this post. I have no objection to the game, or the viral nature of the posting of game results. I’m just at my limit of what I can handle in a day, and I’ve been avoiding Wordle because I can’t afford to spend any time on it. Time on Wordle means time away from other things.

This year, as a kind of brain exercise, I began waking up to the New York Times mini-crossword. After a little while, I graduated to their regular crossword puzzle, which I try to complete every day. I am medicore at crossword puzzles, at best. Today’s for instance, took me nearly 3 hours to complete. It was a Sunday crossword, so the hardest of the week–and I needed to cheat on a few answers to get the whole puzzle. Three hours was more than I could afford to spend, even on a Sunday. But I consider it practice and it will be interesting to see what my time looks like in December.

I really didn’t know much about Wordle until I read “Why You Can’t Resist Wordle” by Kyle Chayka in The New Yorker. This not only explained the origins of the game (pointing me to a New York Times interview with the game’s creator), but also explained the mechanics of the game, and the origin of the game’s name–a play on the creator’s name: Josh Wardle.

The mechanics are interesting:

  • you start from scratch, making a complete guess at the first 5-letter word. The word “adieu” is a popular first choice because it contains four of the five vowels.
  • the colors guide you to how many letters you got: gray and the letter is not in the word; yellow and it’s there, but not in the right position; green, you’ve got the right letter in the right position.
  • from there, you have five more guesses to get the word.

Unlike a crossword puzzle, this seems fairly algorithmic to me. That it, it seems as if it could be solved with some simple searches against a dictionary. Never having played the game, I went to scribble out some regular expressions on paper that might work for each step in the process, where the expression checks against all of the 5-letter words in the Unix dictionary. Then I thought: I can’t be the first person to think of this–and did a Google search.

I’m not the first person to think regular expressions can solve Wordle puzzles.

I say this is different from crossword puzzles because often a crossword solution is a play on words, or a pun, or a slang reference, and not necessarily something that can be found by algorithm. I noted this last March when I wondered if an AI could solve the New York Times crossword. If it could, I suggested than it should be called The Shortz Test.

One nice thing about Wordle is that it is relatively quick. I think my attempt for this post took about 5 minutes. I didn’t use regular expressions, and I did start with “adieu.” As it turned out, my word had only one vowel, which made it tricky. You can see my play in the image above.

Attempting the Times crossword puzzle first thing in the morning can take a little while. But I’ve also found it is a good way to wake up my brain without immediately jumping into the (often depressing) news of the day.

At least I now know how to read those Wordle grids. I love that they are self-contained histories of the game that was played. It means I can see how my friends are doing and cheer them on.

Written on January 23, 2022.

Scorched Earth

I’m not much of a gamer. (For great posts about gaming, check out Paul Weimer‘s Roll Perception Plus Awareness column over at SF Signal.) But every once in a while I come across a game that I used to play that I really enjoyed. I’ve written about Stunts and LHX and one of my all-time-favorites, Ultima IV. The other day, for no particular reason, I came across another one that I really enjoyed in my Junior/Senior years of college: Scorched Earth.

This was a fun strategy-type game where multiple tanks tried to blow each other up using a variety of weapons and defenses. It was not the kind of first-person POV game that are popular today, but I think part of its success was in its seeming simplicity. Me and my friends could spend hours avoiding studying and paper-writing by playing this game. All night study sessions often devolved into tank-busting extravaganzas.

There is apparently an iPhone version of the game available in the iTunes App Store but despite really enjoying the game, I have avoided downloading it. I just can’t afford the time. But I do recall the game fondly and I had a lot of fun playing it.

Facebook game requests

For reasons I am not clear on, I have received a flood of game requests for the various games that are played in the Facebook world. To save potential game requesters a little bit of time in the future (and to quote President Obama): “Let me be clear…”

I don’t do Facebook games.

Please don’t take this personally. It’s not that I don’t like you. It’s not that the game isn’t clever or has some kind lack of socially redeeming value. It’s not even that the time I’d spent playing the game wouldn’t be of some value. I don’t play Facebook games for the same reason I no longer watch TV (for the most part): I’m too busy with other things: family, work, and writing.

But then again, I must admit, I don’t really have a desire to play these games. I know very little about farms, and I don’t need a game to tell me that I’d be a terrible farmer. I have a fairly decent vocabulary and don’t need a game to reinforce that. (Reading and writing do this for me already.) I love games like Ultima IV and Ultima V, but I don’t think these games are available on Facebook and even if they were, I couldn’t risk playing them because I am weak and would become too easily addicted. I don’t enjoy pyramid games where I have to go recruiting other people to help me with a task. I do this enough in my day job.

The bottom line is that family, writing and work are my priorities and these fill my day from beginning to end. In order to play games on Facebook I’d have to sacrifice one of these three things and the fact is that these are too important to me to sacrifice.

So I humbly request that you save your postage and leave me off your Facebook game requests. If you think there is something I’d really like or absolutely must see, send me a message about it. But even then, odds are I just don’t have the time.

Thanks for thinking of me. It is appreciated, but folks, my dance card is full.

I don’t do Facebook games

Since the number of requests that I receive to participate in various Facebook games seems to be going up, I thought I’d take a brief moment to make my position of Facebook games unequivocally clear:

I don’t do Facebook games.

This is nothing personal. But if you were to take a look at my schedule, you’d have a better idea why: I have a fulltime day job. I get home from work in the evenings, spend time with the family and then when they go to bed, I begin my night job, as a professional science fiction writer. Where there are small stretches of free time, I read. I no longer have time to watch TV or see a movie, let alone spend hours playing games in Facebook.

So, if you are inviting people to join your Mafia War, or your Social Empire, or your barn-raising in Farmville, do me a small favor and leave me off the list. It would be most appreciated.

Valentine’s day in Albany

I gave Kelly her Valentine’s gift yesterday, since we had a busy day today, and she gave me not one but two cards this morning, which made me realize that I hadn’t gotten her any cards.  Nevertheless, we had a very nice Valentine’s day–our first as a married couple.  I was up at 6 AM to feed the cats, came back upstairs and told Kelly that I was probably just going to get up, since I was already awake.  I then promptly fell back asleep for another hour or so, which she found very amusing.

We flew out of Reagan/National and once again, it’s great living so close to that airport.  The flight to Albany was less than 1/4 full.  In fact, there were 19 people on a plane that holds 80.  It was quite possibly the emptiest flight I’ve ever been on.  We left the gate 10 minutes early and arrived in Albany nearly half an hour early.  strausmouse  was there to meet us, and we piled into his car and headed to a nearby mall where we met rmstraus  and their little dude for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.  Then it was back to their house to hang out, and where lots of talk about babies took place.

Eric made an excellent dinner that consisted of pasta with sweet potatoes, to say nothing of a side salad with some homemade dressing.  And there was some pumpkin ale to go along with it.  Yum!  For dessert, there were chocolate-filled strawberries and ice cream.  We ate dessert while playing a few games of Apples to Apples.  Ryane won the first game and Eric somehow managed to win the second game.  It’s hilarious to watch those two play any game together.  Around 10 PM, Kelly and I called it a night.

Another Rock Band day

We slept in this morning, which was nice.  I think we were finally up at around 9 AM.  Kelly made waffles, with the waffle-maker we received from AJ and Denisse.  After breakfast, I went to the concierge to collect the package we received yesterday.  I turned out to be the stroller that Jason and Logan got for us for Christmas.  Kelly insisted I put it together right away and I did.  I looks pretty cool.  I’ll post a picture tomorrow.

Later in the morning, we went for a walk.  It was cold out, but the sun felt warm and it wasn’t too windy, which actually made it feel comfortable.  When we got back, I called Mom and Dad to wish them a happy new year (they were still in Vegas).  I dozed off for a little while, and then had a quick sandwich before we headed over to Kevin’s to play Rock Band.

We got to Kevin’s at about 1 PM and we played Rock Band for 4 hours straight.  I did guitar the whole time for a change.  I actually liked it.  The last big set we did was a 7 set gig and I played guitar at medium level and somehow managed to make it through.  As always, it was a lot of fun, and I couldn’t believe how fast those 4 hours flew by.

On our way home, we made a quick stop at the grocery store and then met AJ and Denisse at Pentagon City.  We came back to the house and hung out for several hours, talking, and playing Wii.  AJ and I played Lego Star Wars for a while, and then the four of us played Mario Cart (which was the first time Kelly and I played it).  That was a lot of fun

At about 11 PM, I took AJ and Denisse back to the Pentagon City metro and they took a cab home.  I’m about to call it a night. 

Lego Star Wars

Productive work day today.  It was one of those days where I told myself that I was going to solve a particular problem before I left the office, and sure enough, shortly after lunch, I had the problem solved.  I was pleased with that.

I had leftovers for dinner and steamed some broccoli for Kelly to go along with her mashed potatoes.  After dinner, we cracked open the Lego Star Wars game we got as a gift for the Wii and played that for a while.  Talk about fun!  First, you can play the story line for all six of the movies.  Second, you can’t die, which makes it fun.  Third, the intercuts are hilarious!  Kelly mostly watched, but offered a lot of advice for solving some of the puzzles.

I closed out the evening watching more Battlestar Galactica.

Election day, part 1

I was up ridiculously late last night–until almost 2 AM.  I started playing Tiger Woods 2009 at around 9:30 PM and ended up in a tournament that I eventually won, but it took a long, long time.  I can’t recall the last time I did something like that.  Nevertheless, I was up at 6:30 this morning, excited for election day.

Yesterday was a strange day at work.  I couldn’t find my groove, but I am feeling much better this morning.  I finally got to talk to vickyandnorm  yesterday.  We had played phone tag for a while.

I’m planning on leaving work at 3 PM to go vote.  Lines in "battleground" Virginia are expected to be long, even though we have early voting and a record number of people made use of it.  I hope that by avoiding "peak" hours, I won’t have to wait too long.  I’m very excited about the election today.  Six key states close early (by 8 PM Eastern) and Virginia is one of them.  It looks like if Obama takes Indiana or Virginia, we are in good shape.  If he takes both, we may have a landslide on our hand.  I still have no doubt that Obama will win–now it’s just a matter of by how much.

Rockin’ out and cleanin’ house

Last night we went t a friend’s house to play Rock Band.  It was my first time playing.  We started the evening off with some good pizza from a local pizza joint.  The three of us started playing Rock Band around 8:30 PM.  When we finally decided to call it quits, it was nearly 1:30 AM!  It was a lot of fun.  I played drums most of the night, and started to get the hang of it after a couple of hours.  I also sang at points.  Singing was the easiest.  I tried guitar, but that seemed way too complicated for me.  All told, though, it was a really fun evening, and I certainly play again.

Incidentally, right before we left to go home, we watched the last 2 outs of the Dodgers sweep of the Cubs.  I decided a few days ago that I was pulling for the Dodgers all the way this year (now that the Yanks have been eliminated), so it was nice to see them get the sweep.

We didn’t get to bed until almost 2 AM so we slept in this morning.  Initially we woke around 9 AM, but I convinced Kelly to stay in bed another hour, so we finally got up around 10 AM.  Since then, we’ve been cleaning house.  Kelly cleaned the kitchen, dusted up, while I cleaned the bathrooms, and swept and mopped the various floors that needed to be swept an mopped.  I still have to vacuum but that is scheduled for tomorrow.

We are packing for our trip today, and then, a little later this afternoon, we’re heading downtown to watch the closing ceremonies of Sarah’s three-day, 60 mile breast cancer walk.

And, of course, a new episode of Dexter airs tonight.

We’re cheating on video games now?

This has probably been going on for quite some time, right under my nose, but my attention was drawn to it by this Yahoo!Tech article I saw this morning. Apparently, cheating at video games has been steadily on the rise and has become enough of a problem that cheaters are being punished.

Set aside the fact that I find it incredible that a person would feel the need to cheat at a video game. What impresses me most about this is that it seems that the video game industry is stepping into to actually do something about this, which is more than can be said for, oh, I don’t know, major league baseball, to pick one random example. (I know, I know, baseball did do something about it but it seems too little, too late.)

I don’t know why I find it amusing that someone would cheat at a video game. It somehow seems to me to be a particularly sinister form of cheating although I cannot say why this is. I guess it’s because I tend to associate a kind of laziness with video games (they are played while sitting on a couch), and that cheating is the lazy-person’s attempt at winning, and the combination of a lazy game and cheating at a lazy game seems to me to have a Milton-esque irony to it. But then again, I’ve never been able to understand cheating at any game. What’s the point really? The cheater knows that they didn’t win by any legitimate means. Any bragging rights associated with the cheat are built on a self-delusional house of cards.

I think it says something about society that we have to spend so much time and effort dealing with cheating in various forms. And what it says can’t be very good.

New York weekend, day 1

[Written on November 12, 2007]

Kelly and I hit the road at 7 AM. The GPS predicted a 11:12 AM arrival in Stony Point at vickyandnorm‘s house. We were there at almost exactly 11 AM. Boy, making that drive with someone to talk to in the car makes a huge difference. The time flew by and what was ultimately 4 hours seemed like a mere 60 minutes. Kelly is an awesome driving companion!

Come join the adventure